1965-07-29 - Everyone Needs a Friend (A "What If" Tale)
Summary: Danielle Rand shows up on the doorstep of New York's Sanctum Sanctorum looking for an old friend from Nepal. Tea and tales are shared and, in the end, friendships are renewed.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange danielle-rand 

The knock on the door of 177A Bleeker street is perfectly normal, but also abnormal. It's a human fist hitting the door, certainly, but the metaphysical mass behind the knock is like a freight train whooshing near the windows as it brushes against the shields.

When the door opens, it reveals a woman. Short, lean but not slender, with blonde hair that's been pressed straight and a stylish bob cut that ends just under her jaw, combed back behind her right ear and allowed to drape to the left. Blue eyes, pert nose, and a few scars on her knuckles that one doesn't get from crocheting.

"I'm here to see Stephanie," Danny tells Wong. "I'm an old friend. From Nepal," she says, a little cryptically. "A little place called K'un Lung. Is she available?"

"Yes, Stephanie is in. She'll probably be down soon," replies the stoic Head Librarian of Kamar-Taj, giving Danny a cursory once-over even as he turns to travel back towards the expanse of the large foyer. The wards of the Sanctum sluice about her like guard dogs, sniffing her over as well, and while they mark her as 'new', she's not treated to anything more than a metaphysical sneeze in response. She'll pass muster. "It's been some time since we've had visitors from Nepal. K'un Lung." And Wong snorts — it's a stifled laugh, even as dismissive as it may sound. He pauses before the lofty rise of stairs beneath the stained glass Eye of Agamotto and looks up towards the open-sided second story hallway. He frowns. "Stephanie must be deep in her reading." By his tone, he disapproves. "Wait here. She'll arrive soon."

And with that, the stern man in his robes simply departs from the foyer itself. The sound of large doors opening and closing resounds through the Sanctum and…geez, that's Danny ditched in the middle of a big, old Mystically-rife mansion. But not for long.

"Wong?" A clear alto voice rings out suddenly from above. "Wong? Wong! Who is it?" Hearing no answer from the Head Librarian, a dark-haired woman steps to the railing and peers down at Danny. Her coiffing is all control, pulled back into a refined bun; wings of silvery hair blend up from her temples. She's no taller than Danny, though wearing a resplendent shade of blue to denote her promotion up the ranks since last they crossed paths — Danny last saw her in Journeyman reds. "…seven hells," says the silver-templed woman from above and then barks out a laugh. "Back to haunt me." She descends the stairs at a brisk rate, her boots making moderate sound, and then she's walking towards Danny with a half-smirk. "I refuse to do another kata blindfolded."

Danielle grins in delight at seeing Stephanie. One gets the sense she spent a lot of time around people who didn't habitually emote, so it's a little more fleeting than some. "I bet you don't trip over your own feet so much anymore," she counters. She was a beanpole of a thing when they met — just as a few years have given Stephanie a wiser, distinguished bearing, Danny's grown up and out as teenagers are wont to do with growth spurts. She moves to meet Stephanie and offers her a squeeze of both hands. "You look great. It's been what — four years?" she inquires of the magess. "I heard they let you out of Kammur-Taj finally. Oh!" She digs in a pocket and comes up with a little bag of teas. "A little something from the tea shop around the corner. Some friends there said you'd like it." She offers it to Stephanie, then interlaces her hands comfortably and lets them hang in front of her. "How've you been?"

Stephanie and Wong must spend time together minding the Sanctum; the woman snorts too at the gentle jibe about bumbling about. She returns the squeeze offered by Danny with less strength than the younger woman. The scars are just as bright in their lines and runs along the Sorceress's fingers and back of hands as they were in the handful of years back.

"Let me out of Kamar-Taj," the woman grumbles and shakes her head. "If only you knew," she adds almost under her breath before her dark brows rise. Oh - tea! "Thank you, Miss Rand," she says as she takes the small satchet. By scent, it's going to be a great blend and she looks up from it to Danny again with a more genuine smile. "How have I been? Oh, hells," and she waves her free hand. "Busy. Busy until I could drop from it, but not enough to turn away a friend. Here, we'll have some of the tea." She leads the way into the parlor and meanders over to the tea set on the wheeled service-table by the fireplace's hearth.

"I…received a promotion, as you can see," Stephanie begins after plucking at her tunic. She gives Danny a considering look with those steel-blues before a faint smile appears. "And another yet, but one beyond that of Kamar-Taj. Did you hear about it? The gossip traveled pretty far when it happened." Pride induces the attempt to test Danny's memory even as the Sorceress turns her attention to prepping the tea, all the better to listen.

"I heard. Sorceress Supreme," Danny says, rolling the words around. "Everyone heard. It's the kind of thing that puts the Powers in a tizzy," she smiles. She's dressed sharply — neatly fitted jacket, trousers, low black shoes with a short peg heel. It's a little masculine on her, but it works with her easy confidence. "But it's good to know that you've got things in hand. I won't tell anyone about falling off the slackrope into the mud. Be bad for your image," she remarks. She moves to sit when invited, and crosses one leg over the other at the knee and eases back in her seat. "I guess you could say I got a little promotion, too." She touches the front of her blouse and pulls it aside just far enough to reveal the swirls of a black tattoo near the apex of her sternum. In the light, it glitters gold for just a moment that has nothing to do with the ambient reflection, before she buttons up. "But your thing sounds like it might be the more exciting story. Why don't you go first?"

"I'll know who let slip about the mud if I hear of it," Stephanie replies with an airy amusement and sharper side-glance. The ever-heated teapot pours its crystalline stream of hot water overtop the two clay mugs and their tisanes before she sets it aside again. A lean over one of the cups and an appreciate sigh after the scenting inhale. At the announcement of a promotion in turn, she glances over and straightens in mild surprise. The expression grows at the sight of the symbolic mark in gilded ink and her eyes meet Danny's once more.

"Oh no, I think not. That's a hell of a lot more interesting than my tale. I'm not unfamiliar with that tattoo, Miss Rand. I read," is the explanation, something not terribly surprising coming from the Sorceress. "I understand the base significance and it is no small thing. How'd you manage that?"

"I fought everyone," she says, simply. "Then when the applicants got through with one another, they put me against my teachers. Every one of them, to the master of K'un Lung himself. None held back." She seems very blaise about it, and balances the cup on her fingertips. "Ramro svasthya," she toasts, and takes a careful sup.

"So they took me to the deeepest parts of the monastery. Made me walk naked into the burning caves and told me to fight the dragon." She smiles. "Gave those old monks an eyeful, too. Grouchy old leches," she says, cheerily.

"I found it curled around the burning heart of the monastery's roots. But it, uh… things got a little complicated. The dragon's spirit joined mine. Everyone Iron Fist before me fought the dragon, won, and left with nothing more than the victory they'd earned. I left with the spirit of the dragon."

Stephanie makes her way to the chair in time to return the toast with her own mug, a lift and a formal nod, before she settles in. Steam rises up from the drink settled between hands in her lap — the warmth is kind on the metal pins of her bones and brings a modicum of relief. She listens, head tilted to one side as a raptor might, pinning Danny in place with her attention.

"Ugh. Lecherous bastards," she says with a crinkled nose of displeasure. Manners keep her from commenting further and she's silent for the rest of the story. The Sorceress pauses with the cup at her lips when it ends on its singular note and, frankly, stares. "…I'm sorry, did I hear that correctly? You left with the spirit of the dragon? As in…you're possessed or…simply…borrowing it…?"

"I'm pretty sure I'd have trouble on the flight over here if I was possessed," Danielle tells Strange with a wry grin. "No. It's not … it's hard to explain. I didn't destroy it or absorb it. But it's not riding shotgun with me. It's here, and part of me, but I'm still me. It just … it's making me more me, I guess," she remarks. "I can't really put it into words. It's the kind of thing that words aren't made for." She rolls a shoulder apologetically and sips her tea.

Stephanie lifts a hand and waves it again, dismissive in a non-abrasive manner. "No, no, no worries. I understand what you mean entirely. Certain metaphysical constructs and their existences can be difficult if not impossible to quantify, much less explain. Regardless, this leaves you…as the newest Iron Fist." She grins, showcasing her dimples. "Congratulations are in order. I like your version of things much better than the others I'd heard through the grape-vine. Get enough drinks into beings at the Bar With No Doors and they'll tell you anything, even if they aren't normally interested in talking to the Sorceress Supreme," she reveals with a wink.

"Who would be?" Danny asks, rhetorically — but her eyes dance with unspoken laughter. "You're the universe's new den mother. Isn't it your job to show up and scold the kids when they start messing around with causality or summoning demons?" she says, sipping her tea.

"But thank you," she responds, smiling. "I'm … branching out a bit. A lot of prior Iron Fists meditated in the mountains or hid in K'un Lung. Some ran away. I'm bringing it to New York. I've already started the process of starting some martial arts academies. Help some of the poor kids stay out of gangs and learn some discipline. Not everyone can be a wizard, but anyone can learn how to throw a punch."

"Except for some wizards."

The silver-haired woman tilts her head back and forth in a rueful acceptance: den mother indeed, before she chuckles quietly and nods in agreement. Oh yes, just last week…but a story for another time. She sets aside her tea after another deep sigh, one to warm her innards, and folds hands in her lap after crossing her legs one over the other. She hasn't lost a bit of the musculature kept lean by the cost of the Arts and poor eating habits, though the feminine curves remain. That might be magic in action right there.

At the jab from Danny, she raises eyebrows and belts out another laugh. "I beg to differ, cricket," she shoots back gamely. "I can hold my own against anyone in this world now, much less reality. Throwing a punch, please. I snap my fingers and then go about my day." The glossy raven-black bun remains impervious to the quick shaking of her head and she clicks her tongue. "Puh. I can throw a punch."

"Right," Danielle agrees. "Like a girl. You punch like a girl." Her eyes dance again, and she hides a smile behind her teacup. "Stephanie, I'm teasing you. Don't take it quite so personally. You're the Mistress of the Mystic Arts. There's only one of you in the world — the universe, right?" she reminds Stephanie. "That's important. It's good to be proud of what you can do. It just never hurts to remember some humility, either," she says, her tone pointed, but not unkind.

She sets the teacup aside, tilting her head and looking at Stephanie with a familiar, querying expression. "You realize that, right? Why you were sent to K'un Lung? Why you were told to train with me? It wasn't to teach you how to punch."

Stephanie lifts her chin and one can almost see the defensive cloistering of her personality even as her eyelids drop to half-mast, almost predatory. The stillness leaves her body after a moment or two and settles into mere formality, not having lost all of the friendly nuances in the end.

"I'm aware of it, yes, the reason why they sent me to train with you," she replies quietly. "I learned, cross my little heart," and she draws an X fluidly across her chest with a well-kept fingernail. One dimple begins to show at the corner of her plush lips. "Nothing like being knocked ass-over-tea-kettle into a pit of mud by a teenager to remind you that you're not impervious to the world and its wiles…and that there's always room to improve, both physically and spiritually. Yes, I know," she repeats more quietly yet, her expression gone knowing and smile softer yet. "I've had to council apprentices at Kamar-Taj in the same vein a few times over the last few years. I probably sound much wiser than I am."

"Oh, I just did that because you're annoying," Danny tells Stephanie, cheerfully, with a cavalier bluntness. "I was enjoying a nice mountainside all to myself and I didn't have any boys around gawking at me or trying to catch me in the shower. First privacy I had in five years, ruined." She seems in a good humor, her tone conveying no real ill-will.

"You're very smart, Stephanie, so you don't need to learn … focus, or meditation, or anything like that. You would make a really world-class boxer if you really put your heart and soul into it. Hands or not."

She leans forward, putting a hand on the back of Stephanie's wrist and looking earnestly into her eyes. "The point was to learn that some things don't come easily. Being smart helps, but the only way to build muscles is to lift rocks. You can be clever or efficient about it, sure, but you still have to wake up at the crack of dawn and do something that isn't easy or effortless." She holds her fingers there, then leans back, smiling gently. "They sent you to me to learn the value of repetition. And… to find some sense of peace while doing it. I'm sure doing fighting form sequences a thousand times was insanely boring for you. But that's the only way you would ever really learn to do it."

The Sorceress's eyes drop to the touch at her wrist, but she makes no move to pull it away. This youngling she trusts and it's well-earned by action and word both in Stephanie's opinion.

"How did you know it was so boring that I nearly lost my mind over the thousand repetitions?" Stephanie asks with a very familiar tart little tone, though she still smiles despite the pursing of her lips. "Was it the first or the seven hundred and fifty-eighth time I asked why we weren't doing better things, such as fine-honing our second-century Sanskrit or attempting to better attune our Astral senses to the unSeen world around us?" At this point, she's making light fun of herself and fully aware of how much of a major pain she was for Danny during her internship at K'un Lung.

"You're very huffy," Danny says, wrinkling her nose. "I don't think you know you're doing it. It's really quiet, I mean, I'm sure most people wouldn't hear it. But your nose — " she wags a hand at her nostrils — "it flares a little, and you do a little — " she exhales sharply through her nose. "Usually when I told you to do something you did perfectly once already."

She grins at Stephanie. "Kidding aside, I'm really here to say hello. I promised we'd meet up again if I ever left K'un Lung, and well… I'm home again, and I found out you live here, so…" she shrugs unevenly, looking suddenly like an awkward teenager again. "I was hoping we could … I don't know. Be friends?" she says, with an awkward, wincing shyness.

Aw, crap. The Cricket knows the little tells for Stephanie's levels of irritation, down to the nostril flare. The Sorceress rolls her lips in equal parts repressed rueful humor and a minor flare of that very emotion, simply because she could have sworn that she had her poker face down pat. Still, impossible not to return that grin, even if it's mild as milk in comparison to the one sported by young Danny.

Concern veils the Sorceress's expression as she watches the confidence collapse in the other woman's mien. "Oh…geez, cricket. Don't go looking at me like a kicked puppy. Of course," and she lifts up her hands as if it were a foregone conclusion brought to light. "I'm not sitting here years later, plotting your eventual demise. You are what my parents called 'good people', Miss Rand. Of course," the Sorceress repeats, dimpling deeply. "I'd be honored," she continues more solemnly now. "Good friends are hard to come by in my line of work."

"Oh, great," Danny says, perking immediataely, and beaming a wide and happy grin at Stephanie. "I was worried. I know it's been forever and a day since we saw each other." Four years is a lifetime for a nineteen year old girl, after all. "And I've grown up since then. Also, please don't make a big stink about this, but, uh… I kinda found out I'm the primary shareholder for the Rand Corporation. The, uh, whole thing. Turns out I'm that Danielle Rand. I found the newspaper clippings from when they thought the plane crashed, something like ten years ago. Hence the suit," she says, tugging at the garment. "I hate wearing this stuff but my board — I have a board of advisors now, for some reason — told me to wear something professional. So I got a suit. And then I got a haircut after I saw that movie, uh, Roman Holiday, and I was about to smack the next person who told me how stylish those big curls are." She rolls her eyes expressively. "D'you like it?" she asks, a little shyly, and touches the bob uncertainly.

Stephanie frowns lightly. Curiosity is piqued, instantly, at the phrase 'please don't make a big stink out of this'. Dark and manicured brows flick nearly into her browline at the revelation of Danny's status in the world — newly-discovered status. Her eyes roam over the young woman when the suit is brought into conversational spotlight and then up to the recently-acquired 'do.

"You look very professional, if that's your concern," the Sorceress opines, " — without having lost your youthful aspect. Were I a member of your board, I would approve at your attempt to dress as such." She then grins. "Still, what's my opinion on things? Here I am in a tunic and Nepalese trousers, hand-dyed and -sewn. I'm sure you can imagine the looks I get when I'm out on the street in those. Nothing like a pair of jeans and an old button-down when I need to look the part Mundane." Can't take the farm-girl out of the Sorceress, apparently.

"I miss my gi and robes," Danny says, making a face. "But I guess this is what people wear. Still — " she accepts it with the stoicism of a monk. "Listen," she says, brushing her hair behind her right ear. "I met someone…. kinda weird the other day. At a coffeeshop. She was really sweet and friendly. Cute, like, Hepburn cute," she clarifies. "And really smart about history and languages and … even geography. She acted like she knew how to get from Kammur-Taj to K'un Lung. So I sort of — I sort of brushed against her aura, and it was *huge*. Bigger than the Dragon's, more than… more than anyone or anything I've ever met. I've been trying to process it for days, and I just … I can't wrap my head around her. Do you have any idea who she might be?"

Stephanie listens to the description of the Hepburn look-alike and eventually shakes her head after Danny's query.

"No, I can't say that I do. An aura enough to rattle you? That is something…" She fades out as she taps a nail against her bottom lip thoughtfully. Her eyes go distant over the other woman's shoulder as if she's attempting to suss out something hidden beyond the usual five senses. "The being appears to be female though? I feel as if I would recognize someone who looked akin to that particular actress. Hmm. I am intrigued," she admits contemplatively, arching an eyebrow at Danny now that her gaze has refocused upon the young woman.

Danny shrugs at Strange. "I'm sure I'd sense her coming, if I wasn't totally sure she could disguise herself so I'd never see her coming. I'unno. Big presence, but I sat there talking with her for ten minutes before I even got suspicious. Oh — she had a little tattoo, or eyeliner or something," she says, touching her eye. "It's the Eye of Toth, I think, the curly-cue with the straight bar? No idea what it means, though."

"Eye of Thoth…" the Sorceress echoes even as her gaze slides to one side, towards the rolling tea-seat and the empty fireplace, devoid of wood and flame. Far too hot outside these days to even entertain a blaze in there. "Hmm." Grabbing up her mug, she throws back the remaining tea like a shot (and with some apparent degree of practice in the motion, somewhat telling in itself) before rising to her feet. Her steps take her back to the ever-heated teapot and she pours herself another full cup. The quiet 'clink' of the pot is followed by a sudden stilling through her body; apparently, Something's clicked mentally. She gives Danny a long and almost leery look.

"Tattooed, you said. On which eye? Because that's going to make a world of difference in whether or not I sleep well tonight."

Danny doesn't hesitate. "Right eye," she confirms. "It—" she blinks. "I'm not sure it was there the whole time. I mean, it was but I didn't see it. Or notice it. Which is … either really weird, or really bad," she frowns. The Monks of K'un Lung train mental discipline as fiercely as physical discipline. They don't miss much.

"But I'm sure of it, right eye, and it was really black." Her eyes hood, bringing up the memory. "It might have been eyeliner," she concedes, finally.

About the Sorceress's lips pressed thin, a whiteness seems to show.

"The Eye of Horus then," says Stephanie almost faintly. She swallows soundlessly and seems to need to rest her hands briefly on the rolling table's edge to steady herself. It doesn't move on the thick carpeting, proof that it's only a momentary need. "No one sports that insignia unwisely. I'm still not entirely certain of whom you speak, but…that particular symbol is directly connected to a…particular metaphysical entity with whom I'm…deeply familiar with and have no interest in attracting attention from," she replies delicately even as she takes up her mug of newly-warmed tea. She stays standing where she is, apparently too razzed to feel like sitting again.

"…I see," Danny says, looking more perturbed at Strange's response than at the information. She hesitates. "For what it's worth, she didn't seem malevolent. Or out of balance," she adds. "She let me buy her coffee, too. I think she might have been on some kind of holiday, because she sure wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything except listen to some beatniks trying to play guitar. I really wouldn't worry about it too much. I get the feeling she's just doing what she's supposed to be doing."

"…on a holiday?" The Sorceress seems more thrown by this possibility than any other tidbit of information offered up to her. "A holiday." Incredulity makes this terse and almost flat. "Well…then, maybe I'm assuming the worst of the symbol's application. It may be that your mysterious young woman is simply an acolyte rather than…someone else. That someone else would not register as out of balance in the least. It is, in Her manner…Her aspect, to keep balance and tally."

Stephanie dares a sip of her tea and winces. Ouch, too hot still. Smacking her lips, she then sighs. "I'll have to hunt down this young lady. Care to accompany me, if you can manage it?" Her steel-blue eyes flick to Danny again.

"No, whatever she was, she was doing what she's supposed to do," Danny says, calmly. "I'll come with you to say hello to her, but I am going to have to object to interfering." She furrows her brow, pensively, and looks up at Strange. "Sorry, that came out wrong. I mean — she's not doing anything wrong. She's in harmony with the universe. It'd be like me telling you I'm gonna kill your cat because it's hunting mice."

"But I am 100% sure that it wasn't an acolyte, or servant, or anything else. It was… just… awesome," she concludes.

Stephanie paces away with her drink in-hands a half-dozen steps and then back, almost as a caged tigress. Her eyes never leave Danny and take measure of her words as well as nuances of body language in reporting them.

"Yes…She is awesome, if you're using the archaic variant of the terminology," the Sorceress concurs in a low tone. "…and in harmony, yes. I take no offense to your objection. If anything, I am interfering by existing, Miss Rand. Nothing you can do about that." Pausing at the tea tray, she removes the lid from a white china container and spoons two golden heapings of honey into her mug with controlled speed. It seems a motion almost to distract herself. Her hand shakes enough that it rattles the spoon against the clay interior of the mug.

There is a presence at Strange's side, and then fingertips press to neck, shoulder, elbow, and then a firm pinch at the third metatarsal, enough that even Strange should be able to feel it through her neuropathic damage. Danny smiles at her friend, leaving off the swift application of acupressure to simply offer some basic human reassurance with a touch to Stephanie's shoulder. "Please do relax," she tells Strange, calmly and quite confidently. "As I said, I didn't sense anything malicious or disturbed about her. You might as well panic because the mountain is too tall. She's just doing whatever it is she does. And I'm fairly sure if she really meant to do anyone harm, trying to stop her would be as fruitless as trying to halt the tide from coming in."

Tea spills as the Sorceress feels the sudden touches, masterful as they are in their places. She doesn't go about jumping three feet into the air and the mug doesn't get upturned, but there is a small spot to mop up on the tray itself — she'll get to that later. The shakes in the hand holding her spoon slow and then come to a brief cessation. She eyes Danny nearly through closed lashes at the sudden approach and replies quietly,

"My concerns are well-placed, even if they make little sense to you. As 'den mother'," - single-handed quotation marks here, "I deal with everything outside of this reality proper and extraworldly. Not everything is malicious or disturbed, but it doesn't make them any less dangerous in the base definition of the concept. Plus, you're…not entirely correct, if this young woman is who I think She is. I have stopped that tide." She holds Danny's gaze evenly. "Miss Rand, I suspect she may have an aspect of Lady Death to her. The Eye of Horus is intimately connected to Her. Your implications about balance, all of that…it's not incorrect. However, I have beaten Her in her true guise. That's how I attained my mantle and my…immortality," the Sorceress explains softly. "No scale wishes to be unbalanced and I am a mark on Her slate that cannot be removed. As a human, of Earth? An abnormality. Call me a coward for wanting to remain out of her immediate attention, but I'd rather not remind her of my existence when she has so many other lives to attend to — especially not on her holiday."

Danny thinks about that for a moment. "I understand," she says, finally. "And I think you're right." She pats Strange's arm again. "If that really was Death, then I can see why you'd want to avoid it." She drops the feminine pronoun, too. "You can be very irritating," she says, beaming at Stephanie. "But if you do want to meet her, I'd like to come along. I'll buy her a bagel. Everyone likes bagels."

She tugs at Strange's sleevecuff to examine her hands— the scars are old, and Danny's seem them before. "The tremors don't seem as bad as they did," she tells Strange. "You used to struggle with them shaking. Is stress still a problem?"

"You're welcome to attend and buy her a bagel," the older woman replies almost ruefully. It seems that curiosity outweighs self-preservation here. It is a plan. A subtle tension still flows through the Sorceress's limbs and can be felt in the tendons beneath Danny's careful touches. She appears very ready to pull her hands away at the merest inclination of discomfort.

"Stress will always be a problem for me, Miss Rand," she deadpans. "I can't avoid it any more than the sun will stop rising. Den mother, remember?" She frowns down at the ruddy lines and flexes the fingers carefully one by one as if she were playing an ascending scale upon piano keys; the small motions have the feeling of old physical therapy exercises. "I've developed better control over the years through meditation and mindful thought. They still ache, especially in cold weather and after the more draining spells of the Arts, but neither are things I can control in truth."

"There's a lot of damage," Danny agrees. "And only so much anyone can do. Some things can't be fixed. But if the pain gets worse, please let me know. I can at least ease that," she promises Stephanie.

"I should leave. There's still much to be done with regards to my family estates and the business. I'm making slow progress. But it was worth stopping into see you." She smiles warmly at Stephanie. "Please don't get too wrapped around the wagon wheel. All things must come in their own time, so there's no point wasting time anticipating that moment. Shall I see myself out?"

"I'll let you know." Stephanie gives the young woman one of those mild half-smiles again. It might take slamming them in a door to warrant this follow-through from the Sorceress, but snubbed pride is ever a thorough teacher.

"What kind of hostess would I be to allow that? I'll walk you to the door." The silver-templed woman leaves behind her tea for the time being as she leads the way out of the comfortable parlor and to the short inner hallway. "It was lovely to see you too, Miss Rand. I don't mind when old companions show up on my doorstep. They always have tales to tell. You'll have good luck in your efforts with your estates and business — call it a Sorceress's intuition." Another wink, charming despite the formality she wears again as easily as a second skin. "Take care," she adds as final and warm parting.

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